The Bob Christian Award
The Bob Christian Award
The Bob Christian Alumnus/Alumna of the Year Award was established in 2006 during the school’s 40th Anniversary to recognize the tremendous service of Bob Christian, the first Head of School for HKIS. The award is presented annually to the Alumnus/Alumna who have made a strong, positive contribution to HKIS, our community, and the wider Hong Kong community while living our Mission Statement and SLRs.
The selection criteria used is that candidates:
- Exemplify our Mission and Student Learning Results
- Contribute to the HKIS community, the local community or the broader community
Dedicating our minds to inquiry, our hearts to compassion,
and our lives to service and global understanding.
An American-style education, grounded in the Christian faith,
and respecting the spiritual lives of all.
Student Learning Results:
Individuals who have demonstrated outstanding undergraduate/post graduate achievement or received an honorary degree
Individuals who have gone to great lengths to develop their own spiritual identity such as dedicating their lives to ministry, protecting the faith, assisting the sick, and helping the poor
Individuals who have demonstrated the courage to stand up for what is right
Individuals who have applied various learning strategies or motivational techniques to life
Contributing to Society
Individuals who regularly volunteer his/her time to the community or to charitable organizations
Individuals who have a true appreciation for Chinese culture, for example, mastering his/her Chinese language skills or studying Chinese Medicine
1. Any member of the HKIS community can make nominations.
2. Any student who attended HKIS for more than one semester is considered an alum and is eligible to be nominated for the Award.
3. Self-nominations are welcome.
4. Nominations must be submitted by February 28, 2019
Thank you for your continuous support and for giving back to HKIS!
Click here to submit your nomination.
Each school year, the Award’s Selection Committee meets several times to review in detail the merits of a number of outstanding nominees. We thank those alums and community members who have nominated candidates in the past. The high caliber of candidates has been truly outstanding making the selection process very difficult.
Laurel Chor '07
We’re thrilled that Laurel is this year's recipient of he Bob Christian Alumnus of the Year Award winner. Laurel is an award-winning journalist and National Geographic Young Explorer. She is currently the Asia producer for VICE News Tonight, a nightly show on HBO. A lifelong nature lover, she’s the founder of the Hong Kong Explorers Initiative, which encourages people to explore and appreciate the city’s wild side, and has given many talks on Hong Kong’s biodiversity. In 2013, Dr. Jane Goodall appointed her as the ambassador for the Jane Goodall Institute in Hong Kong. She has previously worked on western lowland gorilla conservation in the Central African Republic, Chinese white dolphin research in Hong Kong, and an undercover documentary on the ivory trade in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Laurel graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown University and played in the 2017 Rugby World Cup as a member of the first Hong Kong team to ever qualify for the tournament. Laurel truly embodies the HKIS mission of giving back to others and contributing to society in a positive and impactful manner.
Gigi Chao '96
Gigi Chao, '96
We are honored to present this years award to Ms. Gigi Chao, '96. Ms. Chao is Vice Chairman of Cheuk Nang Holdings Limited, a Hong Kong-listed development company. She is perhaps better known, in Hong Kong and worldwide, as a gay rights activist. She is a founding member of the Big Love Alliance, a charity that campaigns fro LGBT rights and organizes the annual Pink Dot HK event, Hong Kong's largest diversity and equality event.
In addition, Gigi founded the "Faith in Love Foundation" in 2008 to support the alleviation of poverty and encourage volunteerism to help the underprivileged youth, the lone elderly and the mentally handicapped. Gigi has taken her tremendous talents and her abundance of resources and has channeled them to support those that need it most. She is an inspiration to many and is also featured as one of our inspirational alumni in HKIS Inspires.
Read more about Gigi in Inspires: blog.hkis.edu.hk/HKISInspires/gigi-chao-96/
For more information about this award or about our past recipients, click here.
Michael Swaine '69
Michael was the recipient of the Bob Christian Alumnus of the Year Award in 2016. In nominating him, alumnus Jackson Tay Bosley ’69 wrote: “Michael Swaine’s entire persona embodies the highest notions of service as exemplified in the HKIS Mission Statement of dedicating minds to inquiry, hearts to compassion and lives to service and global understanding. He has devoted his life’s work to critical thinking and the unbiased exploration of the complex world of international politics, as illustrated by his unflinching analysis of world events and his steadfastly ‘speaking truth to power’ to officials in the U.S. and Asia. His current work involves acting as an intermediary between the military forces of the U.S. and China, and attempting to de-escalate potential trouble spots and resolving conflicts. This makes him a significant contributor to better global understanding and enhancing world peace.”
Jasmine Lau ’08
The Bob Christian Alumnus/Alumna of the Year Award is presented to an HKIS alumnus or alumna whose contribution since leaving HKIS exemplifies our Mission and one or more of our Student Learning Results (SLRs). This year’s winner Jasmine Lau ’08 received the award in recognition for dedicating her career to supporting NGOs. She began work with the Narada Foundation, which helps build capacity within grassroots social entrepreneurs and NGOs in China and later co-founded Philanthropy in Motion (PIM), an organization that provides young people with the funds, training and networks to become intelligent givers. She and her co-founder also developed PIM’s KlipTap, a new crowdfunding platform for social causes that both allows young people to participate and be engaged in philanthropy and which provides tools to run online campaigns at low cost.
Jasmine returned to HKIS to receive her award and address the Class of 2015 at this year’s graduation:
Thank you very much. It is an immense honor for me to be back at HKIS. I remember, not so long ago, I was also seated in the same place as you, Class of 2015.
I am not too much older than you are and, to be honest, I haven’t figured it all out. In fact, I’ve only just started my journey of discovery. So bear with me as I share with you today what I have learned.
After graduating from HKIS, I went to study in an American liberal arts university, Yale University. College was a life-changing experience for me, but for the most part, it was also quite overwhelming. Everyone around me was extremely talented and extremely driven, and they all seemed to have a plan for success. I felt lost and, at times, felt that I didn’t belong.
But one thing that grounded me and helped me get over these insecurities, these sporadic periods of self-doubt, was when I immersed myself in volunteer work and service. Instead of asking myself, “what should I do to achieve success,” which is outside of my control and forever elusive, service asks me to consider “what can I do to help others, to make the world a better place.” When we shift the focus from our own achievement to our service in the name of something bigger, then the world is less of a zero-sum game, but one with infinite possibilities for collaboration and creation.
I have to thank HKIS for exposing me to the values of community service, through Humanities in Action, Interim trips and the myriad opportunities to get involved. Including a senior project I did called Ember that involves supporting girl’s education in rural China that I am still working on to this day, seven years later. It is very rare find a school that commits to offering students valuable opportunities to cultivate their social conscience and inspire them to action.
I ask you not to lose that spirit as you continue your personal and professional journey. Many young people, such as yourselves, delay the process of taking action to address social issues they care about. Society often tells us that we are not ready or not experienced enough to make a significant difference. So we wait and we wait, until we are older, richer, and more successful, until we think we have finally “made it” and can become a philanthropist. But what we don’t realize is our generation has so much potential to start early, to lead the movement, to have our voices heard, to shape decisions now. So two years ago, I founded a nonprofit called Philanthropy in Motion. My mission is to empower the next generation here in Hong Kong and China to make the most social impact. By pooling together collective resources, whether it is our skills, ideas, or our money, we form a young people’s foundation that can channel our resources to make change strategically.
I’d like to end with a quote from Harry Potter that has especially resonated with me throughout the years. Dumbledore once said, “It is not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices.” As you embark on you're the next stage of your life, you will be picking up many useful skills and achieving important accomplishments. Your character, your service, your choices, will ultimately determine who you are and what you do for the world.
Source: DragonTales Summer 2015
MINORI NAGAMOTO '01
Bob Christian Alumna Award Winner 2013/2014
Minori was the Joint National Director of Education for International Care Ministries in the Philippines, overseeing 80 learning centers benefiting 2,000 children and their families each year. Minori's team searched out young children who are below the subsistence threshold and gives them free education, school supplies, a daily fortified-lunch as well as a scholarship to continue education at a public elementary school once they graduate from the program. This program has been in operation for six years and 93% of their graduates are still in school.
"I am truly grateful for the award. To me, the award is a clear indication of how impactful HKIS education was to me and continues to be for other budding global citizens. The school nurtured my hunger to succeed and thrive not just academically, but as a whole person. The joy is serving others and celebrating many cultures and perspectives is something I discovered at HKIS. The award is a wonderful source of encouragement and inspiration as I continue to grow as an individual and a professional." - Minori Nagatomo
Minori shared her experience and delivered her acceptance speech at the High School Graduation of the Class of 2014:
Thank you. I am so honored and grateful to receive this award. I feel like I was just sitting in that section not long ago. I didn't imagine then that I would be standing here today, receiving such an honor for the work that I deeply love.
I was reflecting on the wonderful class motto you have chosen for yourselves: "It always seems impossible until it's done." -inspiring words Nelson Mandella demonstrated in his own life.
I thought, "can this happen in real life? And in an ordinary life? In my and your everyday life?" And I realized that breaking through the impossible is happening around us every day. When I graduated from HKIS, my mother told me that even with a massive loan, we had enough money for me to go to university for just one year. Then, I will stop, work, and go back when I'd saved up enough money. A need-based scholarship brought us some relief, but going through four years of college without stopping seemed absolutely impossible, until the hard work and faith of a mother and what we believe to be a miracle made it possible.
Today, I get to see people breaking through the impossible all the time in my work. I work with people who live on about Hk$4 or less per day, people whose parents and grandparents were poor, and they believe their children and their grandchildren will be poor. [With new] basic information about health and livelihood...seeds of hope [are sown], and a dream, that maybe, just maybe it's possible for them to live a better life. These seeds bore fruit for people like Eusibio, who now earns a stable monthly income of HK$1,500 through organic farming. Or a mother who saved her baby by giving her a simple hydrating solution we taught her -- an amazing accomplishment given we work in communities where 25% of mothers have lost one or more children. Bringing her baby to a doctor seemed impossible, and so saving her baby seemed impossible too, until that one day ICM came and told her it's possible.
You might have faced lots of things that seemed "impossible" to get to today, but you did it, and I sincerely congratulate you -- today is a celebration of ALL that you have accomplished. And you might have wonderful and enormous dreams for the future, and you might already know that you'll have to break through "impossible" obstacles to get there. I am telling you today, just like I tell the people I love in the Philippines, it's possible. And I look forward to the day I see you at one of many reunions and homecomings, to hear about the things that were impossible, until you did it.
Thank you again, and I wish you best as you continue the exciting journey ahead of you. Congratulations.
Michelle Hoeppner-Cagnin '94
Hello HKIS graduating class of 2013. My name is Michelle Hoeppner Cagnin and I am honored to stand before you today as the Bob Christian Alumnus of the year.
But today is a day of congratulation for you! Congratulations to each of you for finishing school work and requirements and for entering a new chapter in your lives. Congratulations to your parents and family members who have guided you to this point and now send you with their blessings to new adventures. And congratulations to the teachers and administrators at HKIS who have worked diligently over the years to turn this motley crew into high school graduates who will move on to change the world.
I understand that your class motto is a quote from Winston Churchill:
"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. "
A good quote and quite true. As a graduate of HKIS myself, I understand that your lives are starting a new chapter. HKIS has given you a solid foundation in academics, spirituality, and character development. You are self-motivated learners and world citizens who are empathetic and interested in contributing to society. You have a knowledge and an appreciation of Chinese culture. With this foundation, a world of opportunities is now open to you.
That being said, a world of opportunities sounds like a good thing but it can be a bit overwhelming. With high school graduation, you take on new responsibilities and a continued quest to find your passions and your calling.
For me, this quest has taken me on a wonderful adventure from the urban poor areas of the Dominican Republic to rural villages in mainland China. From interactions with those who have power to those who do not realize their own power. I have been honored to work with the Lutheran church and with international non-profits. I have used my skills in intercultural communication with my husband's family in Italy. I have experienced joy, love, heartbreak, and grief.
This world of opportunities is a burden without faith, hope, and love. For me, high school graduation is the end of the beginning phase of self definition. At the beginning phase of self-definition, we start to figure out who we are as individuals. We often learn this in two ways. The first is through instruction, our family or friends, telling us who we are. The second is through comparison and rebellion. When you are growing up, it is important to understand what you stand against and what you do not believe in. However, as we move into adulthood, I believe that this negative definition of self – a self-definition according to the things we are opposed to – changes. We start to seek our passions and callings. We define what we have faith in, the values by which we want to live our lives, the things that we are willing to sacrifice for. This process usually comes with confusion and sometimes with pain. My hope and prayer for you is that you continue to struggle and fight and make mistakes on the road to defining who you are and what you want to be. Saint Francis of Assisi said,
‘Start doing what is necessary; then do what is possible; and suddenly, you are doing the impossible.’
Traveling mercies to each of you as you find out which impossible things can be made possible though your contributions. Blessings!
A full story on Michelle Hoeppner-Cagnin '94 will be featured in our next Winter issue of DragonTales.
Leontine Chuang '93
Each year we take time to reflect on the HKIS Mission and Student Learning results and to see who has been living out their true meaning. Nominated by you, awarded by HKIS, our worthy recipient is...Leontine Chuang '93
Words by Howard Tang ’94 and Jon Walsh
It was a long, hard process for the judging panel, but it was worth it – it always is. Judging this award is one of the most rewarding jobs of the year since it shows that, long after many students have left HKIS, long after they have travelled, worked and experienced life in other parts of the globe, HKIS alumni are continuing to live the HKIS Mission and Student Learning Results (SLRs). Leontine Chuang '93 is no exception.
Leontine graduated from HKIS having been with us since R2 and went on to major in Political Science and International Studies at Northwestern University in Chicago.
It was at Northwestern that Leontine began her involvement in politics and government affairs, first becoming active within the student government and in her senior year, becoming president of the student government. One of the highlights of her time there was meeting Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997, sadly only a short time before that fateful crash in a Paris road tunnel.
Upon leaving Northwestern, Leontine took up a post at Nankai University and moved to Tianjin in China where she learned Mandarin and taught oral and written English to students from all over the country, passing on many aspects of Western culture.After a year, Leontine returned to study law at Northwestern, also serving as Editor-in- Chief of the Northwestern Journal of International Law and Business. Graduation in 2001 was followed by a move to New York where she began life as a corporate lawyer. But her thoughts of service weren’t far behind and soon she took time out of her hectic corporate schedule to act as a pro-bono attorney for battered women in Family Court and a pro-bono attorney for an asylum seeker from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). One of the highlights of her time in New York was helping her client from the DRC get refugee status in the US.
In 2004, continuing as a corporate lawyer for the same law firm, Leontine moved back to Hong Kong. After a year and a half, Leontine decided she could do more – service was calling in the most subtle of ways. It was while she was helping a friend look for a new job that Leontine spotted the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) ad that would change her life. It offered the chance to use her pro-bono experience for asylum applications and to give something back.
So, in 2005, Leontine started working for the UNHCR in their Hong Kong office, serving as a Refugee Status Determination Assistant. The role required her to make determinations about whether refugee applicants meet the UNHCR’s exacting criteria for refugee status.
Leontine has interviewed hundreds of asylum seekers and heard countless horrific stories about persecutory experiences from refugees. By working with a team to grant asylum seekers refugee status, she has helped save lives and provide a chance for a life of freedom from fear and persecution.
Leontine has also worked hard with her colleagues to help ensure that asylum seekers and refugees’ rights are protected in Hong Kong and their protection needs, whether material, physical or psychological are met.
It’s not easy - hundreds of applications come through the office each year and yet less than 10 per cent of them are approved. The decisions aren’t taken lightly. Each applicant has a story to tell, each has a unique situation – people don’t seek refugee status because they’re having a good time, it’s because they have nowhere else to turn. For Leontine, there is optimism: “I am able to give someone a chance at a new life,” she says, “I find that very rewarding.”
She has made presentations to many lawyers, government officers and police officers in Hong Kong to educate them about the plight of refugees around the world and on our own doorstep in Hong Kong. And since graduating from HKIS, Leontine has kept in contact with many alumni whom she knew at HKIS and returned to HKIS, attending one of Marty Schmidt’s classes to explain what UNHCR does globally and in Hong Kong. On Service Day, 11 March, Leontine was invited to address Grade 6 students and explain her work with UNHCR.
Leontine has not just rested with helping refugees through UNHCR. It was during 2010 that she took on the role as one of the Governors of a charitable foundation that provides donations to worthy causes across Hong Kong. No easy task with such a demanding role and a busy family life, thanks to husband Simon, son Aidan and daughter Simone.
Through her work at the UNHCR, Leontine has strived to help people understand the importance of having compassion for the plight of others, the importance of ser vice to others and the importance of doing our part to help protect the human rights of others. All of which has many parallels to the HKIS Mission: “Dedicating... our hearts to compassion and our lives to service and global understanding”.
No doubt, Leontine Chuang ’93 is your worthy recipient of the Bob Christian Alumna/Alumnus of the Year Award.
Source: DragonTales Summer Edition 2011
Ken Koo '79 & Charles Watson '09
About the 2010 Recipients
The decision to award two recipients the Bob Christian Alumnus/Alumna of the Year Award 2010 was taken because both Ken and Charles were equally worthy candidates.
Ken Koo was cited by the Selection Committee for his dedication and commitment to HKIS over many years and as someone who “truly exemplifies our Mission and Student Learning Results.”
Ken served as Alumni Association President for six years and established the James A. Handrich Service Endowment with Desmond Chu ’91. He has donated generously to the Handrich Endowment, which furthers HKIS’ Mission and Student Learning Results, especially the SLRs of “Self Motivated Leaning” and “Contributing to Society.”
The Selection Committee cited Charles Watson as a “role model in service leadership” for spending his gap year in Nepal and Ghana to improve access to information technology in the education field. Charles’ work is making a meaningful difference to underprivileged schools in those countries. Coincidentally, Ken Koo has been so impressed with Charles’ work that he is funding his solar powered project in Nepal.
Congratulations to both of our recipients.
The Bob Christian Alumnus/ Alumna of the Year Award
The Award was established in 2006 to recall the service of Bob Christian as Head of School from 1966 to 1977 and to give recognition to the Alumnus/Alumna who has made a strong, positive contribution to HKIS, our community, and the larger Hong Kong community.
The selection criteria used is that candidates:
• Exemplify our Mission and Student Learning Results
• Contribute to the HKIS community, the local community, or the broader community
This school year the Award’s Selection Committee met reviewed in detail the merits of a number of outstanding nominees. We thank those alums and community members who nominated candidates. The high caliber of candidates was truly outstanding, and this made the selection process very difficult.
The Award’s Selection committee is comprised of HKIS Administrators, Faculty member and members of the Alumni Association Board.
Source: DragonTales Volume 13 Summer Edition 2010
David 'Biff' Begbie '94 and Joshua Begbie '96
Established almost by chance in 1995, the Crossroads Foundation has grown and diversified into an educational and service organization working in more than a hundred countries. DragonTales caught up with two of its founders, HKIS alumni brothers David and Josh Begbie...
The journey from Causeway Bay to the Crossroads Foundation headquarters in Tuen Mun is a journey of discovery. First, you realize just how big Hong Kong actually is; second, you get to discover a myriad of new tunnels, bridges and roads connecting Hong Kong with its northern New Territories.
After an hour and 20 minutes of nonstop progress on the 962 from Causeway Bay, my bus passes the Gold Coast Shopping Mall on the left, which means it is time to get off. The mall is the landmark David “Biff” Begbie ’94 suggested I look for in order to find him.
Following his instructions, I walk for 50 meters past the mall to a non-descript driveway on the right-hand-side of the road, distinguished only by a large Crossroads banner outside.
Peering through the trees that line the drive, one can make out post-war, military-style barrack-like buildings. They look abandoned and rundown. Nevertheless, these buildings are home to the Begbie family and the headquarters of the Crossroads Foundation.
I walk up the driveway and follow signs to the reception, where I am welcomed by a Crossroads volunteer. She ushers me up a dimly lit corridor to a door marked ‘coffee shop.’
Inside I find all the delights of any self-respecting Starbucks – lattes, cappuccinos, brownies... There is a comforting, laidback feel to the place. Cossroads volunteers of all ages, ethnicities, shapes and sizes sip on cappuccinos, in between sorting, cleaning and packing goods to be distributed to the needy.
I order a coffee and a voice says, “It’s on me.” Before I know it, money has been exchanged and I am sitting with David Begbie, who proceeds to tell me about the virtues of the Fairtrade coffee I am about to enjoy.
The coffee shop is part of Crossroads’ Global Handicrafts program, which offers a market for fair trade goods produced by people living in poverty. "Everything here is sold under fair trade principles,” he says.
This program started five years ago on the suggestion of a Government representative.
"Crossroads had just moved into Gold Coast Headquarters," remembers Josh Begbie ’96. “The representative suggested we be a showcase charity welcoming tourists and foreign dignitaries to show how Hong Kong cares for itself, and for the world.”
The Begbies asked the Hong Kong Tourist Association how they could attract tourists. They said that tourists require refreshments, washrooms and shops.
“Refreshments and toilets we could do, but we don’t sell any of our stock,” says David. “We give it away. Then we had this wonderful eureka moment. Crossroads could be an outlet where handicrafts made by the poor in the areas of the world we serve could be sold, here in Hong Kong.
This is how the Global Handicrafts wing of Crossroads started. “Soon we had the largest fair trade shop in Hong Kong.”
As with the other three areas under Crossroads’ umbrella – Global Distribution, Global Hand and Global X-perience – Global Handicrafts took root through a combination of luck and circumstance.
So how did Crossroads begin?
Genesis of Crossroads
According to David, the Crossroads story starts when he and his brother were young. “We were privileged to travel with our parents to many countries. We spent time in the Philippines where we had the opportunity to work with people in need. We alsospent time in eastern Europe, where we saw much need.”
"We started to ask ourselves, what as a family could we do to help? The poverty was too near and too deep not to respond,” says David.
The Begbies initially thought of starting a charity. However, when they spoke to NGOs, they said they needed help in areas where their parents have skills.
“Our father is an accountant, our mother is in Public Relations. So we thought that’s convenient, using my parents’ skills and training, we could serve many,” says David.
On returning to Hong Kong, the plan was to serve other NGOs through words and numbers in their free time, and also start a business from which to earn money to live and eat.
However, the business did not earn money. In fact, it lost money. As a family, they ended up with just US$10 dollars to their name.
"These were hard times,” says David. “We ate congee and carrot sticks every night for dinner.”
However, the Begbie family had their needs taken care of in different ways that, apart from faith, they could not explain. For example, one day Mrs. Begbie was walking in the fields behind their house in Lantau looking for vegetables for supper. She returned home empty handed and discouraged. In an act of desperation, she prayed to God to help her feed her children
A little time later, there came a knock at the door and a most unconventional angel appeared. “This man had tattoos all over his body. He smoked and spluttered like a chimney,” says David.
“But he happened to have done business with my father and owed him some money. He handed over cash that was exactly the money we needed at that time.”
Another instance was when the Begbie house electricity bill could not be paid and they were about to be cut off. Miraculously, just in time, the family received an envelope, left outside the door, with the exact money to pay the bill.
It was around this challenging, but faith building time that the idea for Crossroads came about.
"I remember the evening in 1995 well,” says David. “We got a call from a woman in China who our family had helped earlier. She said, ‘we’ve just had the worst flood in 100 years and two million people have lost everything, what can you do?’”
"We looked at each other; we had nothing,” laughs David.
"We offered our words and numbers, but she explained that it was freezing in China and the people there urgently needed clothing or they would die. Words and numbers can’t help this time."
The family did not know how they could help, but promised to try and started to look for a solution.
“The answer came during a hospital visit Mom made,” says Josh. “Thirsty, she went to the canteen where she overheard two staff members talking about surplus items they did not know what to do with. She said, ‘Excuse me, but I know one or two million needy people.”’
This encounter resulted in 19 cartons of clothing being sent to the relief effort in China.
A few days later, the phone rang again. It was the woman from China, saying the quality of consignment was good, but the quantity was low. Could we send more supplies?
"My Dad, being an accountant, agreed that 19 cartons of clothing between two million people were a bit thin on the ground,” laughs Josh.
The second time the Begbies approached HKIS, which collected 72 boxes of supplies.
The family thought they had made a good effort and were done. Then a businessperson gave them 136 boxes for China.
Later the family got a call from the Head of Eddie Bauer clothing who said, “I hear you collect clothing.”
"My Dad said, ‘Really, is that what we now do?’”
The family secured many more boxes from Eddie Bauer. The supplies continued to arrive and soon the Begbie house was floorto-ceiling full of supplies destined for China. A lasting memory, says David, is of his parents sliding along their bedroom wall between boxes to get to their bed.
Considering that all these supplies had been secured on an ad-hoc basis, the Begbies rightly felt that they were doing pretty well. “Well enough,” says Josh, “to register a charity: Crossroads International, in 1996.”
They named it Crossroads because the charity connected two roads – a road of resource with a road of need.
With the family home cram-packed with donated goods, and having registered as a charity, Crossroads approached the Hong Kong Government to see if they could offer more space.
The Government agreed to lease to Crossroads six rooms at the back of a former British Military Hospital in Jordan.
At the time, the family thought they could never fill six rooms. However, within three months, Hong Kong had given ten tons of goods and they were bursting at the seams.
"We took more and more space in the hospital, eventually filling almost three entire floors. Try as we might to contain the flow, we couldn’t. Hong Kong kept on giving,” says David.
It was now no longer just clothing people gave, it was everything. Banks gave their old computers, a wealthy family offered two apartments worth of nearly new furniture...and so the giving went on.
This is how Crossroads expanded, by meeting resource with need. In its first four years, it grew 150,000 percent! This equaled 130 rooms full of stuff.
David says they realized that Hong Kong is the ideal place for this type of charity. “Because Hong Kong people don’t do second hand.”
When their lease on the hospital expired, the Government offered Crossroads a new lease at Kai Tak, Hong Kong’s old airport.
"Incredibly, our neighbors at Kai Tak were paying HK$250,000 per month for rent, we paid just one Hong Kong dollar per year," says Josh.
Crossroads spent four fruitful years at Kai Tak, filling up the former baggage handling area and tarmac with shipments to send around the world. As their work grew, they noticed two trends: businesses from all over the world were contacting Crossroads with a vast range of goods, and charities from every corner of the globe were contacting them for aid.
Nevertheless, an irony was that much of this aid could not be accessed or distributed. “It was simply not possible for us to travel the world to collect and transport these offers of aid to areas in need,” says David.
“It then occurred to us that this is the Internet age, so there must be a humanitarian eBay or something out there that connects those with goods to donate to those in need,” says Josh.
The family searched and searched, but drew a blank. All they found was other people looking for such a network.
In their search, Crossroads met with the United Nations (UN) who confirmed that no such global matching network existed. The UN said they had known for ten years that this had been a hole in the humanitarian aid spectrum. They could not build such a site, but asked if Crossroads could. “If so, they would support us in anyway they could,” says David.
With the UN’s encouragement, Crossroads started work on the website. The terms of reference for the site were to link businesses with goods, freight or finances to donate to the humanitarian aid world looking for help. They named the website Global Hand.
Crossroads spent two and a half years holding consultations and introducing humanitarian agencies to Global Hand. The website also gathered and helped develop standards for global aid.
David says they now have a website that allows an automated matching process to take place, streamlining thousands of man-hours worth of phone calls. “Most important, it is saving lives.”
The UN then asked if Global Hand could build a customized version of the Global Hand platform for the UN website, to manage the private sector partnerships with the UN. As this article went to press in December
2009, the English language version of the site was ready to go live on the UN’s website. This will be followed by six foreign language versions by mid-2010.
"Visitors to ‘UN.org’ who enter the business partnership section will be using software powered by Global Hand, even though it will look and feel like the UN,” says Josh.
Another area of Crossroads’ work started as a one-off initiative to celebrate the Foundation’s 10th Anniversary in November 2005. The family had wanted to do an activity that thanked the local community for their support.
“We knew gala dinners in five star hotels were not our thing,” says David. “So we spent some time pondering what to do.” They decided to invite leaders from across the Hong Kong community to Crossroads to get a taste of what life is like for people in need.
When the business leaders arrived at Crossroads, they were stripped of their belongings - watches, wallets, bags etc. – and given hammers, nails and basic materials to build a shelter. They then built and lived in their slums for 24 hours, doing simulation activities that helped them to ‘live a day the way a billion live a lifetime.’
"We had absolutely no idea how this exercise would be received,” says Josh. “However, one-by-one, as our VIP guests left the next day, they expressed enthusiasm for the exercise. Many said they had obtained a profound sense of understanding and empathy for the plight of the poor because of the simulation.”
Quite a few wanted their staff to go through this experience. One hotel manager asked if he could invite all his staff to experience the exercise, and later he did. Not being the type to miss an opportunity, the Begbie family made experiential learning—now called Global X-perience—a new educational wing of Crossroads. Soon the
brothers were devising new simulations around topics such as HIV, refugees, blindness, hunger, water etc.
"Today we run more than 30 different experiential activities and have had more than 33,000 people come through the program, including many HKIS students,” says David.
These simulations are the closest thing to actually going to the place to see the actual need. “When you go through the refugee simulation, your identity is taken from you and your choices are removed. You have to
work out how you can make this situation work, how you live here,” he says.
“At the end of it people say to us that they now have a deep understanding about poverty. The experiences take them from an intellectual knowledge to an emotional knowledge, and that also changes how
they think and act,” says Josh.
"We have even seen NGOs start because of what people experience going through different simulations.”
The icing on the cake for the brothers came at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2009 , when Crossroads invited world leaders to experience the refugee simulation, including UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon and the English entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson. “The privilege of offering this experience to people in a position to effect change is such an honor,” says David.
The Crossroads Foundation has come far since 1995. This journey has been one of opportunity and coincidence. But members of the Begbie family have been the visionaries and driving force steering the Foundation’s success. Nevertheless, Josh and David are reticent about reflecting on their family’s achievement, saying that with their Mom and Dad they are just four people on this journey.
“On any typical day, you will find 80 full time volunteers from about 20 countries serving here, together with a hundred or so part time volunteers from the community. These volunteers share in the work and Crossroads is a product of our collective success,” says David.
Josh says it is important to note that he and his brother are each on their own individual journeys. “We are not here because Mom and Dad asked us to be. We are here because we want to be.”
“We love the work we do here. It gives us a deep sense of joy.”
In recognition of their exemplary contribution to society and living out the ideals of the HKIS Mission Statement, The Bob Christian Alumnus/Alumna of the Year Award 2009 was presented to David Begbie ’94 and Josh Begbie ’96 at the HKIS Graduation in June 2009.
Source: DragonTales Volume 12 Winter Edition 2009